Ex-AG Thomas confirms writing on Riza settlement, but says won’t betray PH trust

Former attorney-general Tommy Thomas.

PETALING JAYA: Former attorney-general Tommy Thomas today confirmed telling senior deputy public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram that he was prepared to consider a representation for Riza Aziz to drop the charges against the Hollywood producer provided that certain conditions were met, including the recovery of more than US$100 million belonging to 1MDB.

“That indeed was my style. After having read that letter, I wrote a couple of words or sentences to him. I have no access to the original letter with my handwriting. Because of this handicap, I cannot comment on it,” he said in a statement.

He was referring to his successor Idrus Harun who yesterday said he had been advised that Thomas had agreed to the suggestion in principle.

Thomas, who resigned on Feb 28 following the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government, however said he would not have allowed Riza a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) for the money laundering charges if he had remained in office.

He said he would have lost all credibility in the eyes of the people if he had approved the order.

“I would have betrayed the trust the prime minister and the Pakatan Harapan government had reposed in me,” he said.

Riza was charged with five counts of money laundering amounting to US$248 million which he was accused of committing between 2011 and 2012.

Thomas said he was satisfied that the prosecution had a strong case to establish the elements of offence against Riza.

“The documentary trail was substantial and highly credible,” he said.

“Upon conviction, the prosecution would have invited the trial judge to impose a sentence commensurate with the severity of the offences, the maximum being 15 years for each charge.”

He said the court could also have imposed a penalty of up to five times the amount involved in the unlawful activities which would have worked out to some US$1.2 billion.

He added that he had made no decision in relation to Riza’s representation up to the date of his resignation.

“A decision of this importance involving billions of ringgit and significant public interest would be made by me in writing. I did not, and none exists,” he added.

He said he had not communicated with Idrus since leaving office but had spoken to Sri Ram over the telephone on several occasions between Feb 28 and May 14.

“But this subject was never raised by him. Hence after my resignation, I was kept in the dark on this and all other matters.”

On Idrus’s statement yesterday that “Malaysia is expected to recover approximately US$108 million”, Thomas said it was a red herring.

“We established strong relations with the Department of Justice (DoJ) after I took office. They have returned billions of ringgit, and more monies may be released in future by the DoJ,” he said.

He added that the purpose of prosecuting Riza was not to strengthen Malaysia’s chances of securing money from the DoJ as the agency would have returned it anyway since it belonged to the country.

“Riza is not offering to pay any new money or monies from any source other than D0J-seized assets. The US$108 million would in any event be returned by the DoJ to Malaysia,” he said, adding that Riza was getting unnecessary credit for returning money that was not his.

“Hence, it is a sweetheart deal for Riza but terrible for Malaysia,” he said.

He also spoke of a need to question why the producer was given a DNAA so prematurely.

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